Faces & Places: Avery Deboer-Smith

Avery Deboer-Smith was raised by two nature loving hippies in Nelson, B.C. She spent her summers playing in the forests, swimming in Kootenay Lake, and hiking and camping in the surrounding mountains. Vacations for the family involved living in their 1972 Volkswagen van (peace sign curtains included), while touring B.C. hot springs, American national parks or remote villages in Mexico. No matter where they went, appreciation of nature was at the core of all their adventures.

Avery was very influenced by the time her family spent living in their little hippie van in poor areas of Mexico. She was “required” to bring old toys to give away to local children who had much less than her. These experiences led Avery to focus on non-profit work. In high school she helped organize Keep the Beat (a fundraiser for War Child Canada) and along with the support of classmates and a teacher, started a group to raise money for schools, supplies and teachers in Sierra Leone. These experiences led Avery to her degree in International Relations in which she minored in Women’s Studies and spent time volunteering in developing nations.

In her last semester at university, she enrolled in the interdisciplinary elective of environmental sciences. This class changed Avery’s trajectory. She realized the extent and importance of environmental and social issues affecting the very forests, lakes and mountains that nurtured her as a child. She returned to school to complete a technical diploma in Environmental Sciences. She is now completing a Master’s in Environmental Management and hopes to never stop being a student.

Since starting her career in conservation, Avery has helped with many Kootenay projects. She was on the team that organized the first Water Drought and Climate Change Conference in the Kootenays. She helped the Citizens Climate Lobby host climate change expert Tom Rand, and sat on the panel as a youth representative.

Avery worked for three years in water conservation with local government where she implemented some of the most successful Columbia Basin Trust Water Smart programs in the Basin.

Last year Avery was awarded Nelson’s Individual Sustainability Leadership Award as well as receiving an award at a Living Lakes International Conference in South Africa, where she attended as the youth representative for Canada.

Avery is currently working as the Program Manager with the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society. Through this position she coordinates restoration, research, citizen science, monitoring, education and outreach events and the annual Kootenay Lake Summit. She also works with Living Lakes Canada and recently helped deliver the Water Data Hub conference in Invermere.

In her spare time Avery volunteers as a board member with the West Kootenay EcoSociety, volunteers with the Girls Empowerment Movement program at the Women’s Centre, is the youngest member of the local Canadian Federation of University Women (she encourages any young women interested in joining to get in touch with her!) and still manages to spend lots of time playing outdoors.

If you ever want to grab a coffee with Avery and chat any and all things environment, she loves making new connections and can be reached at info@friendsofkootenaylake.ca.